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Ian Miles Cheong was the first journalist to report the details of Bianca Devins’ brutal murder. But much of what he “reported” was wrong

Ian Miles Cheong: First, but wrong

By David Futrelle

Late Sunday night, far-right attack journalist Ian Miles Cheong began tweeting the grisly details of a murder that had taken place that morning. At that point, he was the only journalist who seemed to know much of anything about the death of Instagram “e-girl” Bianca Devins.

IMC — as he’s known online — suggested that he had insider knowledge of what had really happened. His first tweet on the subject was lurid and arresting, and quickly garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets.

An 18 year old was just murdered by a guy she met on Discord. He posted photos of her sawed off head on 4chan and chat logs from the Discord indicate that he did it out of jealousy. She was going to a festival with another guy she met on Discord. That’s what I’ve gathered.

Unfortunately, almost everything in the tweet seems to be wrong. Devins was 17, not 18, and according to police she met her future killer on Instagram, not Discord. Though her throat was brutally slashed, her head was not “sawed off.” According to police, she went to the concert in question with her murderer, not with “another guy she met on Discord,” and she rode home with him afterwards as well. We still don’t know for sure what motivated his actions.

In followup tweets, IMC continued to report speculation and rumors as facts. He referred again to “her decapitation,” and “the fact that a guy stalked her and cut her head off,” though no picture I have seen after much searching shows such a thing and no reputable publication has reported this.

He set forth his theory that the killer was a “beta orbiter” who had stalked his victim; in fact, according to police, the two had had some sort of “personally intimate”  relationship in real life for several months (whatever that means; I’m not convinced that it was a romantic or sexual one). He had even met her family. (Click on the images below to see archived versions of the tweets in question.)

From what I can tell this guy was himself a beta orbiter who was upset that she wasn’t giving him the attention he wanted and met up with her under false pretenses.
Her name was Bianca. I won’t be giving out the last name. And she wasn’t his girlfriend. 

You might see Reddit posts describing  Bianca as his girlfriend. That’s what he’d want. Don’t give him that satisfaction.

IMC later demoted the alleged killer to “some incel omega orbiter from her Discord.”

To reiterate: contrary to what Keemstar just posted, identfiying him as "some guys cut off his GFs head off on IG live!" the guy was not Bianca's boyfriend. He was some incel omega orbiter from her Discord who tracked her down to a small concert she went to.

I have found no indication that the alleged killer was an “incel” or that he ever used that term to describe himself. None of the postings from him that I’ve seen used any characteristic incel lingo.

IMC later posted a “correction” for getting the age wrong. And in another tweet he acknowledged (without admitting his earlier errors) that the two had known each other in real life for several months — though he added another error to his growing pile by attributing this information to the Syracuse, NY police, when in fact it had come from the Utica, NY police. (Utica is where Devins had lived and is where the arrest took place.)

Defenders of IMC might argue that a lot of early reporting on developing stories is wrong, and they would be right; it is. They might also note that a lot of other people were spreading misinformation and disinformation, (and worse) and they would be right about this as well.

Does it even matter that IMC got so much wrong in his tweets?

Yes.

It’s true that reporters — and the official spokespeople who are often their sources in crime stories like this — get things wrong. This is why good reporters don’t make categorical pronouncements until the facts in question are nailed down beyond a shadow of a doubt. They use words like “alleged” and “apparently,” and they cite the sources for these claims. (That’s why stories about crimes are filled with many repetitions of the phrase “police said.”)

IMC sometimes hedged his claims by saying things like “from what I can tell,” but he made numerous categorical assertions of fact as well, and was exceedingly vague about his sources for these claims.

IMC is the managing editor for a far-right publication called Human Events. Were he writing for a left-wing publication, his erroneous tweets would almost certainly have led to demands he be fired and blackballed from the profession.

Indeed, when then-New-Yorker factchecker Talia Lavin — someone I should note I’m friendly with online — speculated on Twitter about a tattoo on an ICE agent’s arm with a strong resemblance to a German Iron Cross — she became the subject of an online smear campaign that has yet to let up, with her story providing fodder for a number of segments on Fox News. This despite the fact that after learning that the tattoo in question was not an Iron Cross she deleted the tweet and offered an apology.

IMC has not offered any corrections of, or apologies for, most of the misinformation he has posted on this case. I don’t expect he ever will. And I don’t expect it to have the slightest effect on his career. Because that’s the world we live in today.

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Mels
Mels
1 year ago

Does a full-time propagandist really deserve to be called a “journalist”?

I saw the decapitation claim on the Incel Tears post yesterday. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that misogynists are exaggerating the grotesquery for their own amusement.

Can anyone say whether the photo is (by miraculous chance) being quickly and successfully removed from major social media sites at this point? I’m afraid to look.

jsrtheta
jsrtheta
1 year ago

For this we can thank the internet. Every amateur crank and yahoo can call himself a journalist, or just spout off ignorantly without even claiming any training or expertise, and the rubes will line up.

The joke is that few people even know how reliable investigation and reporting work, and see no difference between an experienced journalist who must justify herself to an editor, and a clown like this. As long as the story is juicy, or conforms to their prejudices and misconceptions, as opposed to the facts, the audience is happy.

All the knowledge of the world is theoretically available online. Including actual facts. But truth is a vastly discounted value. No wonder we’re in the state we’re in.

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
1 year ago

The three worst things humans have invented:

1. Money
2. Metal weapons
3. Church

Excuse me, the FOUR worst things…

4. Internet

varalys the dark
1 year ago

A lot of the internet is pretty awesome actually. I’ve met friends and lovers thanks to in since the 90’s. But Social Media is a cancer eating away at it, and twitter might just be the worst.

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

@Mels
I saw a thread where people were reporting that they had reported the image on Instagram and got a response that it didn’t violate their terms.

@varalys the dark
While there are some terrible aspects of Twitter, I have been learning a lot about accessibility needs and am using that information to improve the quality of the products I work on. I mean, I would be a lot happier with it if they took action on more than 1/10th of the accounts I report (and I only report if I see a clear violation). But it gives me networking opportunities I don’t get from other social media.

Tovius
Tovius
1 year ago

I knew something was off when I saw “beta orbiter” – and that I had already blocked him.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
1 year ago

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: one of the greatest things about the Internet is how it enables the creation of communities of common interest among people who might otherwise never have realized they weren’t alone.

One of the worst things about the Internet is that there’s pretty much no discernment about what types of communities are created.

(The fact that most of the big social media companies were either created or later bought out by techbro types who think they’re too smart to need advice just adds an extra layer of skewing to which types of communities get supported.)

An Impish Pepper
An Impish Pepper
1 year ago

I guess this is OT but the discussion around networking and the internet just got me thinking about this. Despite my familiarity with the internet, I never really understood modern networking or (centralized) social media. I think I must have slipped through a bunch of cracks.

I’ve never been good at taking the initiative on potential friendships. Maybe part of it was due to going to a high school rather far away from home for the sake of an autism-related program. I was in band and stuff, but was always a step distant from everyone else, like, nobody invited me over to have pizza or anything. This tendency then continued into university. People would, it seemed, magically group up with little effort, but wouldn’t give me so much as a number or room where I could find them. It was like society just expected me to have some initiative-taking ability that I did not possess. Then my grades collapsed and the people who should have been my bare minimum support network turned on me. I could only conclude that this is just how people are, and grew deeply ashamed and suspicious of everyone. I’ve never really recovered from this. It was only this year that it even occurred to me to try and use the resources meant to help students with things like transitioning to work.

Over the years, I was lied to, over and over again, by pretty much everyone and everything concerning the job market. Forum culture in the 2000s had a lot of faults, but a big one was a pervasive false notion that you’ll land a good job right out of school as long as you graduate with one of a certain set of degrees. But it wasn’t just forums; pretty much everybody older than me seemed to have a similar belief. And then came the vapid business advice websites that blame the unemployed and insufficiently employed for a situation that many in my generation have found themselves in, equating a long employment gap with a criminal record.

Friends might have told me about Twitter, but instead I got the impression of it being just a vehicle for asinine corporate memes. Friends might have told me about LinkedIn, but instead I was assured that nobody uses LinkedIn, by people who probably never needed it. Friends might have helped me build a network for jobs or really whatever needs I have, but instead I was armed only with Indeed. I hate Indeed and hope never again to have to sift through job listings that say nothing.

Sorry if this sounds a bit bitter. I’ve found this whole “adult” thing very frustrating and it just seems like life is passing me by.

Jeff Fecke
Jeff Fecke
1 year ago

No, not in Utica, no, it’s more of a Syracuse police.

Mel
Mel
1 year ago

@ An Impish Pepper

WTF does what you wrote have to do with this girl’s murder? what is wrong with you that you made this about you?

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
1 year ago

Umm…WTF Mel?

The conversation on this thread had strayed towards the Internet being terrible by post 3, and literally the post above the one you’re going off about was talking about how the Internet builds communities. AIP’s post didn’t come out of nowhere, and you getting all mean about seems pretty fucking cruel, especially considering the post’s content.

Can I perhaps get a vote from the regulars on whether AIP’s post was out of line?

Victorious Parasol
1 year ago

My two cents are that if you go off topic in a thread, it’s forgiveable if you a) admit it’s OT and b) have it at least tangentially connected to the discussion.

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
1 year ago

I’m ok with AIP’s post, it’s not like we DON’T go off-topic here, especially when a regular needs some empathy.

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

@Gaebolga
I vote no, it was not out of line.

@Mel
I get being upset on a topic like this when things stray OT. It can be upsetting when the subject matter is this gruesome. But AIP just continued a discussion that was already happening.

@AIP
You should set up a LinkedIn profile. Just know that the company is sleazy and will sell your data. But it’s one of the best ways to get in touch with recruiters at the moment.

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

In response to basically everything in this thread and the previous one:

Heya peeps. Calm down a little and get some perspective. Not too calm, though.

Terrible people have always existed, always done terrible things. Before the internet, you mostly didn’t hear about it. People who don’t use the internet much, if at all, still mostly don’t hear about it. And when you go to sites dedicated to tracking certain forms of evil, like wehuntedthemammoth.com, or news sites dedicated to outrage news, it’s like being blasted with a fire hose of darkness. Or being an investigator in Call of Cthulhu, your SAN score slowly slipping away. I took a 2 year break from sites like this because it was ruining my ability to function.

The internet allows new forms of evil, and better organization of old forms of evil. This is also true if you replace “evil” with nearly everything else, including “good”.

The “promised world”, known as the “American Dream” in the US and other names in some other countries, was only ever truly available to white, heterosexual or hetero-passing, christian or christian-passing, able-bodied people who started their careers (or in the case of most women, whose husbands started their careers) between 1945 and 1985. Even then, it was still a nightmare for some women.

What made it possible was a combination generally conservative social policies, including exclusion of groups not mentioned above, and generally liberal economic policies. The 1980s and 1990s largely killed liberal economic policies. The 2000s and 2010s largely killed conservative social policies. The promise is now null and void. A new promise is being made in countries which have at least partially embraced democratic socialism. Elsewhere, the only thing to do right now is to find your own way in the world, a world full of people who sometimes get in each other’s way while trying to make their own way in it.

Yes, there are new challenges. Most of those who lived the promised world unknowingly, uncaringly, or unconcernedly racked up a massive debt, both economic and environmental, metaphorically speaking. The bill is now due, and the younger generations won’t be able to pay, only hold the fort until we transition to a hyper-efficient, low-resource world with Jurassic climate, or become an interplanetary species, or succumb to the inevitable collapse of civilization and possible extinction… while also pacifying those who don’t believe, don’t care, or welcome the end of the world. (“Pacifying” does not necessarily mean indulging them, or oppressing them, or even making most of them happy the slightest, only preventing them from revolting.)

Before the world wide web, that would have been an impossible challenge. Thanks to the it, we have a fighting chance. And use it to meet with like minded-people, refresh yourself so you don’t collapse under the crushing weight of despair (like, incels and crap). Build each other up without being too much of an echo chamber, and we’ll have more strength to take on challenges, both in our own lives and in the world as a whole. And if your own life is challenging enough, leave the heavy lifting for the world to those who are in a better place, without any guilt that you aren’t doing your part.

TL;DR in some ways it’s as bad as it looks, yet in most respects no worse than it’s ever been. and in others, it’s better than it looks.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
1 year ago

@An Impish Pepper:

Sorry if this sounds a bit bitter. I’ve found this whole “adult” thing very frustrating and it just seems like life is passing me by.

It’s not just you.

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

…That was more off topic than I meant to go, but it was a general message directed at people who seemed to be upset enough over the combined elements here – the murder, the aftermath, the incel harassment, and the bad reporting which spread at lightning speed, that they might be thinking of just sliding into despair. If so, don’t. Take a break from this site if you need to. There’s no shame in needing to recover from a bad shock so that you don’t break.

I vote no, Impish Pepper wasn’t out of line. We’re allowed to talk about personal stuff even when it’s not an open thread.

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

Sometimes there isn’t an open thread for awhile but people still need to talk about things.

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

@Snowberry
Pmease do not tell me to calm down. That’s extremely dismissive of my feelings. I’m constantly told to calm down and that I’m too sensitive. (Well, not anymore. I have a husband who cares about my feelings now and I don’t talk to my mom about anything anymore.) It’s something women have been told forever when things are actually horrible but we’re supposed to pretend it’s not. We’re supposed to perform calmness to make the people around us, often who are unaffected by or even causing our distress, feel better.

Fuck that. I’m going to be enraged. We cannot keep letting this war of attrition make us compliant, numb, unfazed. We must not obey when told to calm down; that way lies complicity.

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

@Kupo: Fine, don’t get too calm (accidentally emphasized the wrong word above) like I said… or if rage is the fuel you need, then use it, but carefully. You’ll do little good if you burn out too fast.

In any rate, the message above was meant to give perspective to the despairing, not demand superficial rationality of the angry. I probably could’ve worded the intro better.

Aura
Aura
1 year ago

Bianca was featured on the ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike Instagram last week. (She had submitted photos via the hashtag.)

She was young and figuring herself out and I’m so fucking mad that she didn’t get to grow up because of some fucking dude.

Mels
Mels
1 year ago

@Impish Pepper

This may not have been the best post to write such a comment, but I don’t think it was out of line. I’m disabled, and I know the feeling of having your support system collapse because people can’t be assed to deal with what *you’re* going through, like you’ve become an inconvenience. The employment gap thing, which I have also been experiencing long-term, is a hell of a reflection on the way we’re taught to value other human beings not for themselves, but for how well they perform labor in our dysfunctional system. I wish for better days for you.

To tie it back in with the post, Cheong is doing his vile best to commodify Devins’ death to bring him attention, to the point where he’d rather make this tragedy sound salacious instead of delivering facts. No surprise there, given his record, but it’s still nauseating. I can’t remember who’s famous for saying this, but the quote (I paraphrase) “evil begins when we start to see human beings as things” comes to mind.

Kevin R.
1 year ago

And already, incels are latching onto Cheong’s “beta orbiter” comment and praising her killer for “going ER”, claiming that Bianca had it coming, and fearing that this is gonna be used to make them look bad. (As if they needed any help on that last one.)

Justin
Justin
1 year ago

God, I can’t believe you went out looking for the photo. I saw it by accident and I wish I hadn’t. I’ve seen gore and dead bodies before but something about that was particularly disturbing. I can’t get it out of my head.

An Impish Pepper
An Impish Pepper
1 year ago

Yeah I guess I interpreted this thread as being less about the murder itself and more about how internet “journalists” exploit terrible incidents like this. I didn’t intend to veer quite as far off-topic as I did; that’s just how it all worked out after I cut out a lot of stuff relating to the internet (the third paragraph is the result of that). Even if it wasn’t necessarily out of line, it wasn’t as related to the topic as I intended going in, so I’m sorry about that.

@kupo

I made a profile a while ago. I’ve been through a few lectures on How To LinkedIn, but I’m still trying to figure it out. It doesn’t seem like a large portion of LinkedIn users use Premium, and yet that looks like the only way to actually “cold call” anyone without sending a connection request.

I have a hard time getting email replies even from people I know, so I’m not really confident about any of this.

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
1 year ago

@Kevin R.

And already, incels are latching onto Cheong’s “beta orbiter” comment and praising her killer for “going ER”, claiming that Bianca had it coming, and fearing that this is gonna be used to make them look bad.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nikki the Bluth Wannabe
Nikki the Bluth Wannabe
1 year ago

@An Impish Pepper
I don’t think your slightly OT post was out of line.

@Snowberry
Thanks for your first post trying to give perspective to the despairing. I don’t need it right now, but I’m sure there are plenty of others who do, and I second what you said.

Drungarios
Drungarios
1 year ago

I read the original treats, and ironically enough Cheong was surprisingly sympathetic toward the victim, and equally surprisingly disgusted with the victim. He may have gotten literally everything else wrong, but I’ll give him credit for at least not being a complete asshole about it (low bar, I know, you can thank the incels for that).

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

@Drungarias:

Cheong was surprisingly sympathetic toward the victim, and equally surprisingly disgusted with the victim.

I’m not sure what you mean by this? I’m guessing you mean “equally surprisingly disgusted with the perpetrator?”

Drungarios
Drungarios
1 year ago

Woops, yeah, obviously wrote that before the coffee kicked in.

Katamount
1 year ago

@Jenora Feuer

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: one of the greatest things about the Internet is how it enables the creation of communities of common interest among people who might otherwise never have realized they weren’t alone.

Furries represent yo! *high five*

I would literally have not found the very community that became the cornerstone of my creative existence were it not for the internet. I can only speculate who I might have been otherwise. Perhaps I’d have found something else, but that Katamount will never be.

@jsrtheta

Every amateur crank and yahoo can call himself a journalist, or just spout off ignorantly without even claiming any training or expertise, and the rubes will line up.

This is the drawback of the lack of gatekeepers. Without them, anti-intellectualism will ensure that people who don’t take the time or care to actually dedicate themselves to their craft can rise to the top simply by reinforcing confirmation biases. That’s the kind of thought that keeps me up at night.

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
1 year ago

Katamount re furries:

I’ll say the same about BDSM/fetish community. And various geek interests. And getting fluent in English. And smart progressive communities like this blog.

Kevin
Kevin
1 year ago

@ Mels

‘Evil begins by treating people as things.’

I first encountered this view expressed explicitly in Terry Pratchett’s novel Carpe Jugulum,
though it’s visibly present in the earlier book Witches Abroad.